I am a truth person. This reality is demonstrated in the fact that every spiritual gifts’ test I have ever taken I consistently scored lowest on mercy. Every. Single. Time. Even the times I tried to cheat and game the test I still scored dead last on mercy. I am not proud of this fact but it is a fact. I fought against this fact for years and tried desperately to be softer and squishier than the way God made me. It took me a while to realize that people like me add something necessary to the body of Christ. We keep the feelers from getting excessively feely and the mercy folks from handing out cheap grace like it was fun-size candy on Halloween.
That being said, humans tend to be creatures of weird extremes. We rarely do, think or believe anything in a halfhearted fashion. As a result, the current emphasis on grace has caused many Christians to view good works as an optional activity for Christians at best and as an affront to the grace of God at worst. Some Bible teachers and Pastors have inadvertently encouraged this flawed thinking by leading people to believe that salvation is an end rather than a beginning. Many Christians sincerely believe there is nothing left for us to do but glory in our salvation and wait for heaven once we have become Christians.
Happiness is a feeling or mood that tends to be short-lived and extremely centered on self. Finding happiness is complicated by the fact that even under the most ideal of circumstances happiness is something that is challenging to hang onto. As a result, once we begin down the path of “making ourselves happy” the pursuit of happiness becomes a never-ending quest that is nearly impossible to achieve or maintain. This is partly because the stuff that make us happy (or unhappy) tends to change frequently. On Tuesday donuts might make me supremely happy and on Friday the mere thought of them might make me queasy. Because happiness is such an unstable and selfish emotion when we do things solely for the sake of our personal happiness we tend to hurt a lot of people (including ourselves) in the process of “making ourselves happy”.
According to the Barna Research Group most pastors do not feel “safe” speaking out on thorny social issues. I am not sure if this fear is grounded in experience or if we have all just devolved into a bunch of timid simps. I do know that the church is called to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). I also know that pastors are meant to be the mouthpieces of the church in this world. If sixty-four percent of pastors feel they cannot speak out about abortion, sin, sexuality and issues of fairness without suffering some sort of personal backlash then the world will quickly lose even more of its preserving (salty) influence.
Okay, so, I am a little more familiar with the sin of bitterness than I or anyone else probably ought to be. I actually consider myself to be something of an expert on the topic.
Bitterness is not a subject that gets discussed much in church-y circles. It should be, because my experiences are not all that unique or special. Bitterness is one of those ugly little sins no one wants to own-up to but that we all struggle with at some point in our lives.
Shortly afterward, I had a weirdly painful moment of spiritual clarity. It occurred to me that as a 21st century American I probably (obviously) have some fairly twisted views on what exactly constitutes a trial and what I was put on earth for. Truth-be-told in my heart-of-hearts I tend to think (unconsciously, most of the time) that the point of life is for me to be happy, milk as many experiences out of life as possible and enjoy the fruits of my labor.
As I considered the flagrant fact-shunning, I found myself thinking some rather scornful thoughts regarding worldly people and their lack of logic. Then I had a weird and fairly awkward epiphany. I realized that Christians do the same kinds of things with a different set of facts.
His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord~ Ephesians 3:9-10 NIV Okay, so, a fun fact about me is that I have been a Christian for decades, …
Because people are fallen and sinful (Genesis 3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:23, 1st John 1:10), the veneer of civilization is thin even in first-world nations. When a sizable portion of a population adopts an erroneous viewpoint (like believing everyone and everything is racist) widespread suspicion results, which can cause the thin veneer of civilization to crack. When the veneer of civilization cracks all the sinful gunk and goo that simmers just below the surface of humanity leaks out. When that happens, all hell can and sometimes does break loose.
Too often at Christmastime we get so caught-up in the hullaballoo that surrounds Christmas that we lose our sense of wonder and astonishment at the beauty that lies at the heart of the Christmas story. We lose something of infinite value anytime we cease to rejoice and wonder at the crazy-truth that the God of the universe willingly left the comfort and majesty of heaven simply so that He could give a bunch of mostly ungrateful, clueless sinners an opportunity to get right with Him.